Times Record: If you’re poor, buckle up (Feb. 28, 2013)

OK, Congress, conservatives and other protectors of moneyed interests: You have the stage.

We give up. You win. You have your “sequester.”

Faced with popular programs you could not eliminate on up-or-down votes, you have created a false budget crisis and axed vital programs whole. Now let’s see how it plays out.

After all, none of this applies to us:

Military readiness. Defense officials are preparing cuts that could potentially include hundreds of jobs at Bath Iron Works, idling workers and keeping thousands of dollars out of local merchants’ coffers. Statewide, approximately 7,000 civilian defense employees could be furloughed, reducing gross pay by around $41.7 million across the state.

Education. Does your child attend a Head Start program? Maine will lose approximately $2.7 million in funding for primary and secondary education, putting around 40 teacher and aide jobs at risk. In addition, Maine will lose approximately $2.6 million in funds for about 30 teachers, aides and staff who help children with disabilities.

Nationally, 70,000 kids will be kicked off Head Start, 10,000 teachers will find themselves at risk of unemployment, and funding will be eliminated for up to 7,200 special-education staff.

Public health and nutrition. Eat meat? We could see 2,100 fewer food inspections as the Food Safety and Inspection Service furloughs all its employees for two weeks, creating health risks and higher food costs created by spoilage.

Maine will lose $127,000 that helps it respond to public health disasters and about $330,000 in grants that help prevent and treat substance abuse.

Hospitals should expect to see some of the 800 admissions avoided by having substance-abuse programs. The Department of Health and Human Services will lose $61,000 for HIV tests, endangering 1,500 Maine people and their partners.

Aid to the needy. Maine will lose $197,000 that provides meals for seniors. Nationally, 600,000 women and children will be dropped from the Department of Agriculture’s Women, Infants and Children program.

More than 100,000 formerly homeless people will be kicked out of housing and shelter programs and put back on the cold streets. Maine has 2,393 people at risk of being homeless, including more than 200 veterans.

In 2010, 28,213 Maine households accepted some form of public assistance — 5.2 percent of the state’s population — much higher than the 2.9 percent national rate.

But don’t worry. This will make government smoothly efficient, ridding us of waste while keeping our social safety net whole.

And it’s necessary. We have to do it. There is no other choice. Right?

Debt hawks really don’t care what gets cut — defense or social programs. And, despite election results to the contrary, they are very clearly in charge, fanning the flames of “crisis” where none exists.

The only crisis is one of confidence. We no longer have any faith in the ability of our leaders to manage the economy.

The sequester is a brainless move, a sign of government put on auto-pilot by conservatives looking to protect their (growing) incomes from taxation.

There’s an old saying: A liberal is a conservative who hasn’t been robbed.

We say a conservative is a liberal who hasn’t tried to pay a mortgage after losing a federally supported job.

Buckle up, readers. This will get ugly.


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